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“The Pattern of Success – Zig Zag Principle #70”

In the end, we will avoid the “all or nothing trap” if

we adhere to the principles we’ve established for ourselves as we zigzag toward our beacons in the fog.  I once listened to Jeff Sandefer, a university professor and Harvard MBA who BusinessWeek named as one of the top entrepreneurship professors in the United States.  Jeff spoke of a final exam he gave his MBA students, who were required to speak with ten seasoned and successful executives.  Jeff further specified that the first three executives they interviewed needed to be highly successful, but under the age of thirty-five.  The next three successful executives were to be in their mid-forties and fifties.  The final four interviews were to be with successful executives who were in the final stages of their careers.  In each of the interviews, Jeff’s students were to elicit information on how these executives pursued and viewed success.

Invariably, the young bucks were beating their chests and chasing after the brass ring, often in ways that put them at risk of losing their balance.  The middle-aged executives were beginning to figure life out.  Some of them had regrets and others had chosen to add some balance to their lives.

Of course, it was the older executives who gave the real insight.  It did not matter what type of business these men or women were involved with.  In each case, they described a pattern of pursuing success that was guided by these three questions:

1)    Was it honorable?

2)    Did it leave an impact?

3)    Who loves me and who do I love?

Many of these older executives were billionaires.  And yet they talked very little about money.  What mattered to them was how their business helped others and whether their business mattered.  They wanted to leave a legacy. And most importantly, they talked about the people who loved them and the people they loved.  Of course, there were those who did not have loved ones, and they talked about that absence with regret.  They were honest and open and direct about their successes and their mistakes. 

Whatever our goals are, whatever our beacon in the fog is, it is critical that we do what we do for the proper reasons and that we stay within the guardrails and values that we have set for ourselves.  If we do, we will get to the end of our lives—which will inevitably come—and have no regrets.


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